Established in 1959, Mini was produced by the British Motor Corporation to bring to market a small and fuel-efficient car that could still fit four passengers after World War II and the Suez Crisis, which had sent oil prices through the roof. Mini’s performance heritage and its quirky style gave it a cult following in Europe, but American fuel emissions regulations in the late 1960s kept MINI out of the U.S. market. After the MINI’s upgrade at the hands of John Cooper of the Cooper Car Company, the Mini Cooper gained even more popularity by winning the famous Monte Carlo Rally three times between 1964 and 1967.
The Mini survived BMC, and Leyland and was owned by Rover at the time BMW decided to get involved with the UK’s car industry. BMW sold off Rover but kept the rights to Mini, launching a new Mini at the Paris Auto Show in 2001. To help familiarize a modern American audience with the new Mini Cooper, finally released stateside by BMW in 2002, BMW remade the 1967 British heist film “The Italian Job” showing the Mini Cooper in its glory days.
The modern Mini shares many traits with its classic predecessors including Union Jack taillights, a nod to its heritage and remains fashionably quirky outside and in. We drove the 2022 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop 2DR, from the racing division of Mini, donned “the best affordable sports car you can buy.” With a turbocharged two-liter engine with six-speed manual front-wheel drive, 228 hp and 235 ft-lbs of torque, its sticky tires and adaptive suspension rip it around corners in splendid fashion. Four-piston Brembo brakes and excellent steering add to the driver’s confidence as does the growl of its dual exhaust. MSRP was $32,900 and our tester added $7,000 for top-level Iconic Trim allowing its appearance to be tailored, upgrading alloy wheels to 18 inches, premium leather upholstery, and technology features such as Apple CarPlay and Connected Navigation Plus.
Through Ups and Downs, the Lincoln Brand Presses On
One of Cadillac’s co-founders broke off to form the Lincoln Motor Company to manufacture Liberty motors during World War One and the company, named after the president, introduced its first motorcar in 1920. By 1922, Lincoln was sold in receivership to the Ford Motor Company. Edsel Ford provided the direction and inspiration for the Lincoln motorcar, acquiring designs from top U.S. coachbuilders to invigorate the brand. Lincoln made both factory and custom-built models in the 1920s, from roadsters to town cars and later, the renown Continental. After World War II, Ford formed the Lincoln-Mercury Division, positioning Mercury as the premium brand between Ford and Lincoln. The 1980s were the height of glory for the Lincoln Town Car which was also used as a Presidential state car until 1989.
The 1990s ushered in competition from newcomers Infiniti and Lexus, and Lincoln struggled to compete, redesigning the Town Car and Continental and introducing the Mark VIII. The Navigator, introduced in 1998, was Lincoln’s first SUV, and it even delved into pick-ups in the early years of the 21st century. In 2006, Lincoln’s restructuring plan, “The Way Forward,” started the “MK” branding (MK derived from its Mark series). The Lincoln Zephyr became the MKZ, Lincoln MKT, MKX and MKC crossovers and MKS sedans followed.
As GM spent heavily to turn around the Cadillac brand, Ford only halfheartedly tried to compete with Lincoln’s long-stranding rival since it had acquired Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. When Mercury was dropped in 2010, Ford resurrected the Lincoln Motor Company name for its American luxury vehicle, and since 2014, with Matthew McConaughey as a brand spokesman it has gained traction. By 2020, Lincoln had phased out its sedans and dropped its MK branding strategy, rolling out new Nautilus and Aviator SUVs, and the replacing the MKC compact SUV with the Corsair.
Sharing much of its platform with the Ford Escape, Corsair is a step up aesthetically and in finish-out. We test drove a 2021 model with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. We found the Beyond Blue stitched leather interior accented with white and black very stylish and appropriate for our Florida drive, and the trip was quiet and comfortable. Our Corsair’s mid-level AWD Reserve trim level included the leather upholstery, a digital gauge cluster, a premium sound system and a panoramic sunroof with MSRP at $45,090. The Reserve level also opens up option packages. Ours had over $11,000 of add-ons including Pristine White paint, 10” black aluminum wheels, 24-way power-adjustable seats with heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, extra advanced safety aids, adaptive suspension and an upgraded tech package.
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